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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Mar 25 2007 7:16am
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 PDC is an all player run format on Magic Online.  It consists of competitive games using exclusively commons cards.  Games can be found in the "/join pdc" room and events can be found on the Magic Online official message boards.  For more information please visit paupermagic.com.

 As I begin writing this, I am mired in a losing streak. I have been having issues winning even in testing with basic aggro decks. Of course, it needs to be said that on top of this I am in the middle of mid-term season and am working on a huge project all while getting ready for a trip to a professional conference. I do not really have the brain power to devote to winning right now. Oh well, at least I can play Magic with my friends. Although this does serve as an important lesson: you can not win all the time, no matter how good you are. Am I the best PDC player ever? No, but I've done alright for myself in almost two years of competitive PDC play, and know that when I have less stuff on my plate, I will do better in events- I can only stretch my mental capacity so far.

Enough about me though, on to the format. There has been a strong metagame shift towards aggressive strategies recently. Many top 8's and 4's are featuring strong creature decks based on attacking rather than on creatures with useful comes-into-play abilities. This, to me, is a good thing. The reason I believe that this is good is because the former metagame dominating decks were extremely slow and horribly reactive.

Blind Hunter
is losing out to
Wild Mongrel

What I mean is they could not win; they just stopped themselves from losing. Eventually, they would win because all of the opponents resources would be exhausted or relegated to uselessness. Except a significant portion of the time (not a majority, but not far off) a reactive deck would lose to being run over by a good aggressive draw. That made these decks high-risk, high reward; if you lasted long enough to get a solid board position, it would be hard to lose. The metagame adapted however, into one that used land destruction (many of these reactive decks were very Greedy and used many karoos), countermagic, and other disruption elements. This is significant because it represents the first time that the PDC metagame has really coalesced into something discernible. But let us return to the reactive decks for a moment.

What does being reactive mean? In PDC, reactive means that you win only when you can exhaust the resources of your opponent. Parlor Tricks is a perfect example of this exhaustive control strategy. It will often win on single digit life totals and by its creators admission cannot beat countermagic, land destruction, or aggressive decks with burn like strategies. Instead, it attempts to win an attrition war through removal and favorable trades. If it can achieve this, it can set up a soft lock of Death Denied and Izzet Chronarch. This takes quite a bit of time to set up and a strong aggressive draw can destroy a deck with a similar plan. Reactive decks also tend to play three or more colors (although not always) and rely more on the pure power of cards than any overall deck synergy. This makes them, as I said before, vulnerable to disruption.

Death Denied
Izzet Chronarch

This is a win condition?

However, these decks were successful for a long period of time because people were building and playing aggro decks incorrectly. Much too often people will just slap together a bunch of individually good creatures in similar colors and call it aggro (in the midst of typing this sentence, I just made another top 8, with a deck I'll provide at the end of the article). All too often I see people playing White based aggro decks with Guardian of the Guildpact a fine control card, making their curve look more awkward than a bald Britney Spears- really strange. When aggro starts playing suboptimal aggressive cards, decks that are purely reactive can thrive. For the same price as one Guardian, that same White deck could have dropped a Kami of Ancient Law and a (Benalish Calvary) for twice the power. On top of that, it would take twice as many cards (normally, since very few decks run sweepers main) to deal with these threats, making the reactive deck that much less effective (as I typed this sentence, Tom just won, making him 3-1 as well and a near lock for top 8, with the same basic deck as I was playing. Man, you guys really are gonna love this deck). These threats were based on individual power than overall deck consistency. These same White decks that would run the Guardian would also run Armadillo Cloak for an Exalted Angel like beast. However, against reactive decks (that are multicolored), the PDC-Angel could come up against Terminate, Pillory of the Sleepless, or even Innocent Blood. If those 8 slots dedicated to a two card combo were instead 8 bears, a single one of those spells would not hurt as much. The reactive decks were able to dominate for a length of time because aggro decks were, in essence, in efficient.

Guardian of the Guildpact

I cost four and have only two power, of course I'm the beatdown.

Now I know this is going to annoy a lot of PDC regulars because they have often won with these less than perfect aggro decks. Many times, Boros style decks or WG Cloak decks have won on the back of Guardian. I agree it is a fine card, but it just is not right for the main sixty of a deck designed to reduce the opponent from twenty to zero in no time flat. Guardian is also stellar in aggro-control decks because he provides a solid (albeit late game) beater that has “unsolveability.” I still cringe though, when I see all these pinnacles of efficiency such as Wild Mongrel, Phantom Tiger, and River Boa along side the clunk four mana, two power man. On top of this, running the Guardian can often warp a deck to fit his specific needs. While Armadillo Cloak is a simply fantastic card, too many of the WG Guardian decks focus their entire win on that two card combo. They then run Auramancer as a supplement, and then on top of that, Armor of Thorns. Taking out the Guardian and replacing him with a Glory Seeker suddenly opens up eight slots that can go to better aggressive cards such as Predator's Strike. When aggro decks have a tight focus, though, it makes it very hard for purely reactive decks to win.

This is one of the reasons I keep a copy of Affinity in my deck folder (and as I type this, Tom and I are paired in the quarter finals, obviously. It came down to game three, where I had more game breakers than he did. I've made another top 4. We now go back to the regularly scheduled article). Affinity keeps other decks honest. Even though the artifact lands are restricted in the format and Cranial Plating is banned, the deck is still a force to be reckoned with. It can cheat tempo and accelerate itself a full turn every two turns that go by in a game. Additionally it can run a number of trump cards- (Myr Enforcers) can block Guardians all day- and has the ability to cast the best draw 7 in PDC on a consistent basis- Rush of Knowledge. It used the be that a resolved Rush was game over; now, it is just very hard to recover from such a play.

Most Affinity decks play very similarly- a ton of (conditionally) cheap beaters, card drawing, reactive spells (such as Welding Jar or the stellar Neurok Stealthsuit), and a healthy dose of artifacts. Because of the way cards in this deck double as spells and land, it can easily run as few as 17 land, counting karoos. However, the deck also runs some truly suboptimal cards, such as Phyrexian Walker, as a means to enhance overall synergy. Regardless are all the cards taken away from it, the deck still holds considerable power. With this deck though, the hardest decision comes on turn zero, when a mulligan choice is made. My rule: 2.5 mana sources means keep it, especially it there is some drawing. 3.5 or more sources, you better think about sending it back. Regular lands count as a mana source, Artifact Lands are 1.5, zero cost artifacts are .5 as are 1 cost artifacts that draw a card, such as Chromatic Star. Cards with Affinity can count as conditional mana sources- if you have 3 or more artifacts in the opener, Frogmite and a piece of Chiss-Goria can count as half a source. This rule has helped me many times when playing the deck, and usually yields positive results (and this silly Green beatdown deck just made the finals! We are going to be taking a break from our article for this tournament break):

This match is against the guy I lost to round one running a very reactive Black/Red deck. This does make my rant at the beginning of this article seem kind of annoyingly self-deprecating, does it not? Regardless, do you guys like this narrative style, or is it needlessly annoying? We have moved on to game two of the finals, with me winning the first. It is turn four, and he only has two lands in play; not good for him. And your writer has just become the Euro PDC 5.08 champion... roughly the equivalent of winning a small PE. It is my first win this year, which is nice.

Rush of Knowledge

Doing stupid things since 2003

 

Where were we? Oh yeah, Affinity. It is a solid deck, and here is a list. This is a more aggressive build, designed to deal twenty quickly, although it could splash Black over Red for Disciple of the Vault advantage:

1 Ancient Den

3 Arcbound Worker

1 Choking Tethers

1 Darksteel Citadel

1 Dragon Wings

4 Frogmite

1 Great Furnace

7 Island

3 Izzet Boilerworks

1 Mountain

4 Myr Enforcer

2 Neurok Stealthsuit

4 Phyrexian Walker

3 Pyrite Spellbomb

3 Quicksilver Behemoth

2 Rush of Knowledge

1 Seat of the Synod

4 Somber Hoverguard

4 Thoughtcast

3 Tooth of Chiss-Goria

1 Tree of Tales

1 Vault of Whispers

3 Welding Jar

2 Chromatic Star

Affinity is also a great blend of Greed and Consistency. It plays some of the most (conditionally) powerful cards, and plays all of those that fit in the deck. On top of that, it has the chance to play both explosively and with the card draw available, can be fairly consistent (if you mulligan properly). The deck is also relatively cheap to acquire and like Othello, it is a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.

Decks like these help keep the format honest and prevent decks that cannot win from taking over. Of course when decks of this nature take over, a number of anti-creature mid-range decks flood the meta, and the cycle tends to start over. Although you do not need me to tell you that, since that is what metagames do, but once again, it is nice to see a metagame in PDC.

 

Until next time keep slinging commons,

 

Alex

 

Bonus Section: Euro PDC 5.08 Winning Deck.

 

This is the deck (and sideboard) I used to win the most recent PDC Euro event:

4 Armadillo Cloak

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Elvish Warrior

13 Forest

3 Llanowar Elves

4 Predator's Strike

3 Quirion Ranger

4 River Boa

4 Selesnya Sanctuary

4 Silhana Ledgewalker

4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk

4 Tangle Golem

1 Tranquil Thicket

4 Wild Mongrel

Sideboard

4 Gather Courage

4 Moment's Peace

3 Sundering Vitae

4 Mire Boa

 

Now I have been known to say that Cloak sometimes just gets thrown into decks that have no way other to win, but in this deck it serves a different role. This is a fairly standard Stompy style deck that uses the power of the karoo land to facilitate the addition of Armadillo Cloak in the place of Rancor. Also, it's pretty darn good on a Ledgewalker.  This deck is capable of some explosive openings, and twice has won with only one Forest in play.  Also, Gather Courage can act as a counter in certain cases and can be great on both offense and defense.

Here is a quick report, enjoy.

Round 1, I play against BR Rats and Removal. As I said before, this is a very reactive deck. In game one I get overrun by his removal and get him low on life before he is able to control the board. Game two I come out of the gates lightning fast and role him quickly. Game three is a repeat of game one. At this point I get a little annoyed and start complaining to Tom about how I should have played a different deck.

Round 2 I get paired against MUC and promptly mulligan to four, which is as good as scoop. Of course, this deck when played properly has a great game against MUC which is how I managed to win the next two games.

Round 3, I'm paired against Affinity and promptly smash face. River Boa is pretty good against the deck, since it tends to run Islands as its main basic land.

Round 4 it is MUC again, only this time I do not drop a game. The snake is pretty good against Islands.

The quarters are against Tom playing a near copy of the deck (we did design it together). This matchup is all about Cloak advantage. I get it game one, he gets it game two, and game three is a stalemate, except I get Silhana Ledgewalker advantage and win on a very clogged board.

In the semis, I am up against a Boros build running Guardian. He never gets off his feet either game, and in game two, he concedes before it gets dirty.

The finals are against that same Rats and Removal deck that I lost to round one. Fun. Game one I get a very aggressive draw and am able to Cloak up a Boa that goes all the way. Game two gets stuck on two land for the first four turns and my strong draw is able to go the distance.

Guess that losing skid is over.  Cheers (and if you are reading this, hi dad)!

0 Comments

Excellent article. by MagicalTrevor (Unregistered) 66.74.47.57 (not verified) at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 18:37
MagicalTrevor (Unregistered) 66.74.47.57's picture

The GOTG comments were dead on. Someone once said GOTG was auto 4 of in a deck with white. NO! WW builds I played only had 2 and I never really liked them to much and of late they are hated on so much anyways.
Being a player who played alot of cloak, the deck always seemed confilicted to me. Was it aggro or combo. Both? Why play bonespliter instead of morningstar? Mono green with splash white for cloak seems like a better pure aggro play. Congrats on your win. I hope our Rats play testing helped you in the finals.

by thejitte at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 08:16
thejitte's picture

The Princes of Pauper Blog is a great place for Standard PDC.

Congrats by Draco36 (Unregistered) 72.205.28.17 (not verified) at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 18:21
Draco36 (Unregistered) 72.205.28.17's picture

Just want to say that I agree with the analysis of GotG for the most part. I have never even considered it for my aggro decks (especially boros) and always frown on the inside when someone casts one in their aggro R/W deck. Congrats on your win btw.

Informative. by Hollow0n3 at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 03:25
Hollow0n3's picture

I really enjoy reading your articles, and I really like to see an almost monogreen deck win again.
I still have that one monogreen-combodeck.. ah, fond memories.
The only downside, I really would like to see your decklists in tables, they are a bit hard to read at the moment.

Decklists by Dreager_Ex at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 03:53
Dreager_Ex's picture

When you go to the next line by hitting enter make sure to hold shift that way it won't double space... Great article though, very fun read.

by Lord Erman at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 04:53
Lord Erman's picture

Although I'm not a dedicated PDC player such as you, I like playing it from time to time. And when I now need some information about the meta-game, deck ideas or such, I know where to look thanks to you! By the way I couldn't disagree with the others; please make your decklists more reader-friendly by separeting lands and creatures and other spells, so we can read it easier. And finally I would also like to read some stuff about Standard PDC. Thanks...

by jinx_talaris at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 06:09
jinx_talaris's picture

I was actually unaware of the format. Your articles have left me well informed. I would now like to try out some PDC TSP Block play. See if I can come up with anything crazy in what is the most restricted format that people actually play at the moment :D.

Thank you guys by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 06:44
SpikeBoyM's picture

Thanks for the feed back, I'm going to be working on the deck layout for my next article. I've been hella busy this week (midtermsa, final projects, getting ready for a conference, and general grad-schooliness).
Erman- I would write more about PDC standard, exceptI don't get to play it ever, and I don't feel comfortable talking about it. However, there is a clan site, Princes of Pauper, that do fantastic Standard PDC analysis.
Jinx- I think TSP Block would be a fantastic event, but currently no one runs an event. =(

re: PDC and action, reaction, action by Tharionwind (Unregistered) 24.10.102.196 (not verified) at Sun, 03/25/2007 - 14:54
Tharionwind (Unregistered) 24.10.102.196's picture

After 3 1/2 years of PDC existence - I am happy to see excellent articles on PDC tech and the meta game. Thank you and kudos to SpikeBoyM on writing/posting this article.

Regards
Tharionwind of MTGO
"The Commoner"

card borders by Mitchy at Sun, 03/25/2007 - 19:36
Mitchy's picture

Hey Alex, I've fixed the problem why the borders on your cards aernt working well. Please edit your article and relink them, thanks! Sorry for the inconvieniance!

Very Nice... by dragonmage65 at Sun, 03/25/2007 - 19:41
dragonmage65's picture

Nice article! You should try compressing your decklists by using tables to spread them out horizontally.